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Stitches of love: How one breast cancer survivor is helping other patients facing the fight

“I hope they feel lifted up, that somebody’s thinking of them or somebody’s praying for them,” said Cheryl Garth.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A breast cancer survivor is using her journey to help other breast cancer patients, by creating beautiful quilts.

“I love to sew, and I love to make quilts. My grandmother was a quilter. I always said that’s something I’m going to do,” said Cheryl Garth, who works at Saint Francis Hospital as the Compliance Officer.

Garth has been making quilts since 2013, when she said her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“You know a lot of times it’s just if I hear of somebody that’s going through something, or like cancer or chemo... well I’m going to make them a quilt,” she said.

Then Garth, who has a background in nursing, was diagnosed herself in 2017.

“I think the first thing you start thinking about is death. The shock of, you know, and why is this happening to me. Why me? And I finally got to the point to where I realize, you know, why not me. I’m strong. I can fight this,” said Garth.

And she fought, sewing one square at a time of her journey.

“All the parts of the quilting process I just love, the quilting, the piecing, picking out colors. Umm, and then making that quilt for someone,” she said. “I make all kinds of quilts. I do make chemo quilts or just cancer quilts.”

“It means a lot to me. It really does,” said Karen Fitzgerald, a two-time breast cancer survivor. “The first time I was diagnosed was in 2012. Speed forward six years, I found a lump again on the left side… both cases I was diagnosed before I was 50.”

“Any diagnosis with cancer is a shock. I tell people, it’s like a fog that comes over you… and you hear cancer and you just… it hits you and it’s a weight,” added Fitzgerald.

Garth decided she was going to make a quilt for Fitzgerald.

“One day I came into my office, and it was sitting at my desk,” said Fitzgerald. “Through my second diagnoses it was tough. Multiple procedures, I was in and out of the hospital within a year, and everywhere I went I took my quilt.”

“We had a bond… our breast cancer bond,” said Garth.

“Cheryl will tell you everybody needs a hug and a blanket - will give you a hug and it’s true,” said Fitzgerald.

“I don’t know. I haven’t kept count of how many quilts I have made. I don’t know. I mean it’s… I tried to take pictures of quilts that I’ve made so that I would have a record of it. But sometimes I forget. So, I really don’t know. But I’ve probably made 100 quilts at least I would say,” said Garth.

“It’s a memory, is what I tell people. Because when I would go to the hospital this is what was on my hospital bed when I woke up,” said Fitzgerald. “I still use the quilt today. Like, it lays on my bed. It’s what I lay with and watch TV or just sit with.”

The quilt includes a prayer in the stitching.

“I hope they feel lifted up, that somebody’s thinking of them or somebody’s praying for them,” said Garth.

“I look at it and it is a memory and it’s a very sweet memory. Because I think about that time of where I was and where I am now… I’m a survivor… I’m here… I’ve beat it twice,” said Fitzgerald. “It is a reminder that I’m a tough girl. You know, I’m a tough lady. That I’m a fighter.”

Garth’s final message to women?

“Get your mammograms. Get your screening mammograms. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait. Don’t say I don’t have time right now,” she said. “It’s not a death sentence. If it’s caught early, the treatment is less harsh that you have to go through. Just get your screenings. Don’t be afraid.”

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